Background: The family food environment (FFE) is likely to exert important influences on young children's eating. Examination of multiple aspects of the FFE may provide useful insights regarding which of these might most effectively be targeted to prevent childhood obesity.
Objective: To assess the associations between the FFE and a range of obesity-promoting dietary behaviors in 5-6-year-old children.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Subjects: Five hundred and sixty families sampled from three socio-economically distinct areas.
Measurements: Predictors included parental perceptions of their child's diet, food availability, child feeding practices, parental modeling of eating and food preparation and television (TV) exposure. Dietary outcomes included energy intake, vegetable, sweet snack, savory snack and high-energy (non-dairy) fluid consumption.
Results: Multiple linear regression analyses, adjusted for all other predictor variables and maternal education, showed that several aspects of the FFE were associated with dietary outcomes likely to promote fatness in 5-6-year-old children. For example, increased TV viewing time was associated with increased index of energy intake, increased sweet snack and high-energy drink consumption, and deceased vegetable intake. In addition, parent's increased confidence in the adequacy of their child's diet was associated with increased consumption of sweet and savory snacks and decreased vegetable consumption.
Conclusion: This study substantially extends previous research in the area, providing important insights with which to guide family-based obesity prevention strategies.